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Joab: The Class Prefect (2:20) Excerpt from film "Back to School", September 2006
After dropping out of school following his mother's death, Joab returns to school, and is chosen prefect by the other students.

Country: Kenya

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Guiding Questions
  1. How many children are there in Joab's class? What might make his classroom situation a better learning environment?

  2. Why is the class studying the subjects you see in this video clip?

  3. Is primary education a need or a want in the 21st century for the children of Kenya?
Background Essay
Joab lives in Kibera, the largest squatters' camp in Africa on the edge of Nairobi, Kenya. In 2002 Kenya abolished school fees and Joab was able to start first grade - at the age of 10. That year, over a million and a half children poured into Kenya's primary schools, and Joab was in a class of 70 students. Joab dropped out of school and joined Nairobi's street children following the death of his mother, possibly from HIV/AIDS. Found and persuaded to return to school by a teacher, he is now in 4th grade.

Many Americans assume that free public education is a fact of life, but that is not true for over 100 million children around the world. The 20th Century saw a growing divide as more and more industrialized countries embraced state-supported education, and non-industrialized countries did not. In the non-industrialized countries, education remained bound by traditional practices or was available only to the wealthy.

To address this problem 1,100 participants from 164 countries met in Senegal in April of 2000 to adopt the Dakar Framework for Action, a re-affirmation of the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All. One of the commitments made in the Dakar Framework was to ensure that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality.

While the Dakar Framework states that education is a human right, the reality for children around the world is very different. Education is often restricted by gender and/or income. In some places there is a shortage of qualified teachers. Some children around the world must cope with diseases like HIV/AIDS within their families, schools, and communities. Lastly, there can be a conflict between traditional values and the push toward education.

Securing government and community support for education has not been simple. Looked at historically, education has been a challenge that spans ages. Confined to the secular or religious elite for millennia, it was only at the beginning of the 19th Century that Napoleon introduced the concept of free public education, to foster loyalty to the central government. Enlightenment thinkers and their heirs stressed the importance of education as a foundation for representative government. Later, industrialization created the need for basic literacy for factory workers. At the dawning of the 21st century, quality free public education has now been achieved for the industrialized world. The challenge remains to bring it equally to all the world's children.

To put a human face to the global crisis in access to education, WIDE ANGLE filmed seven children around the world as they began school in 2003. This effort resulted in the documentary TIME FOR SCHOOL. The film crew returned to visit them again in 2006, making a second documentary, BACK TO SCHOOL.

When we found him dirty, the head teacher gave some amount so that he could go and shave the hair first. And then we also gave him some uniforms, which were donated by the children who had left school. He told me, "Teacher, I didn't know where I was heading to. But, now that I've come back to school, I will not let you down again." So that is a boy we rescued again to come back to school.

Often the first to arrive in the morning, Joab has been back in school for one year, and has just started fourth grade.

Like children throughout the world, he's learning English, math, and social studies. His curriculum also covers the health crisis that has affected nearly every child in the school.

Since his return, Joab has been chosen as prefect, or class monitor.

Hey Josephine, sit down. Jones, sit down. Hey you, Ondinyo, sit down.

When I asked the other peoples to select a prefect for me, in fact they gave me his name, because they know he works.

I like being chosen to be a prefect. I can help our teacher even if our teacher is not in school.

Can somebody else tell me another province that we have in Kenya?

Central Province.

Very good.

This year there are 92 in Joab's class, and he ranks third among them.

So far, he has made good on his promise. Joab has not let his teachers down.

Related Links
Back to School on PBS.org

OneWorld PERSPECTIVES Magazine: Learning the Future

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Global Campaign for Education

CIA World Factbook: Kenya

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